Warrior Words: An elusive question

“A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives,” as said by Jackie Robinson, will be, after much contemplation, my senior quote. I believe this describes how I act, and the way I think others ought to, as well. However, over the past year as I have conducted my college search and begun my journey to adulthood, I have realized that a level of selfishness and self-centeredness may be required to get to where you want to be. With this on my mind, I have been questioning the wisdom of the quote and, more specifically, whether people are wiser to be innately selfless, or selfish.

The initial inclination for most is probably to say we should be selfless, and to shape our decision making and lifestyle around others. But being in high school, especially in a competitive place like Wilton High, you might need to look at yourself from a different perspective, perhaps even as a college admissions person might. That in order to win favor and open up more possibilities, you need to achieve more visible successes and distinguish yourself from others. Granted, this can be done through being selfless and doing charitable deeds, but the bulk of it is paving your own way, and focusing on things that are unique to you.

This can mean surrounding yourself with those best suited to succeed as you do. If you think about it, friends are essentially a reflection of who you are. So, as time goes on in Wilton High School and at other schools like it, one sees friend groups getting smaller and people becoming more self-driven and less dependent on others. This is a good thing, but leads one to question, should I embrace selfishness as a way to mature and prosper, or should I shun it? Interestingly enough, you could make a case that the most successful people often seem to have the fewest friends and be the most self-focused.

On the other side of this internal argument, you could say that nothing beats helping others, and the richness of this in itself is more satisfying than any amount of money or possessions one can accumulate. And maybe the world might be a profoundly different place if people had more empathy for and were more focused on those around them. Take Chris Herren, for example. He helps thousands through his speeches, which is an immeasurably positive thing.

I guess this argument also depends on how one measures success, or if this question should even be answered based on which approach better reflects personal success. Is success more monetary, or more internal — like a great feeling inside? I would say the latter, but unfortunately something I am realizing is that the world will always run on money. Money is synonymous with the survival of the fittest, yet one of the most powerful acts of selflessness — philanthropy — is made possible only through having money.

As I write, I wonder what the reader’s perspective is. Should people be selfish to succeed in our competitive world, or is being innately kind and empathetic the better route to happiness and true prosperity? And, as I ponder Jackie Robinson’s words, I realize that a monetarily successful life may be more easily attained by being selfish, but the important people, those who change the world, are those who remain selfless. So to my readers, I ask the vexing question that may lack a concrete answer: What will make you successful, being selfless to achieve moral success, or being selfish to achieve monetary success?

Alex Jacobson is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with four classmates.